NY Young Forest Initiative Will Expand Woodland Diversity

By Michael Burger

Letter to the editor in Albany Times Union:

I am writing in response to the "Observation Deck" quote from Moisha Blechman regarding New York's Young Forest Initiative.

In March 2016, the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station released a report from a long-term, large-scale study aimed at helping society understand the magnitude and consequences of cumulative forest changes anticipated over the next 50 years. A major recommendation calls for developing measurable state and regional goals for forest diversity, and monitoring progress.

scarlet tanager

Scarlet tanagers breed and nest in mature forest. But they need the diversity, as well as the heightened food resources, of young forest habitats in order to thrive in northeastern woods./Tom Berriman

The report says, "Increasing the forest age-class diversity would increase other measures of forest diversity, expand habitat diversity for wildlife, and increase forest resiliency to undesirable consequences from stressors such as climate change and invasive species. Failure to address this issue has long-term implications (mostly bad) for future forest diversity and resilience."

The bird conservation community is recommending similar forest management but for different reasons. New research is confirming forests composed of multiple-age classes of trees are important to the nesting success of forest-breeding birds. Many species require young forests for nesting while others nesting in mature forests can move their fledglings to patches of young forest so they can benefit from increased food availability and protection from predators.

In working with forest owners and managers, Audubon recommends management that is similar to what the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is planning for its Wildlife Management Areas.

By creating and maintaining young forest on 10 percent of its Wildlife Management Areas, DEC's Young Forest Initiative will help diversify forest-age classes and maintain tree-species diversity, which will make those forests healthier and more resilient while improving habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Michael Burger is the Director of Conservation and Science for Audubon New York

(Both Audubon New York and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation are partners in the Young Forest Project.)